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Drama

Drama

All the King's Men

dir: Steve Zaillian
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Of all the flicks that came out last year, few garnered more scathing reviews and cat-calls than All the King’s Men. Not in Australia, necessarily, where pretty much no-one cared (though it still got bad reviews). In the States it was treated by reviewers and audiences alike as if it was a piece of shit covered in leprosy germs. Few films lost more money last year, and few were so hated. With that kind of rep, I was obliged to see it.

In the time-honoured tradition of spruiking for worthless crap, before the film even came out, and before it played on the film festival circuit and was screened for critics, the PR minions backing the film put out bullshit hype about how the flick would doubtless kill at the Oscars, with little golden dildos all around for all involved. Instead of generating positive buzz and interest, this had the effect of souring people on the whole experience before they even stepped into the theatre.

Rating:

Volver

dir: Pedro Almodóvar
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I have to admit that I generally don’t much care for the films of Pedro Almodóvar. To be honest, I find most of them pretty goddamn pointless and irritating. I’m not saying he’s not a great director, it’s just that, like the double negative I used in the preceding part of this sentence, maybe his stuff just doesn’t work for me.

In the 90s the thing that stuck out about his flicks the most was the truly trashy nature of the action, with even trashier characters acting in ways which might seem perfectly natural to Spanish people, but looked utterly idiotic to me. When it was amusing it was okay, but generally the actions and dialogue spoken seemed beyond ridiculous.

And don’t get me started on the situations in his films where rape is practically used as a comedic plot device.

Maybe that soured me on him just a tad. At the very least, upon seeing Talk to Her (Hable con Ella) a bunch of years ago, I thought maybe he could make films that I could like. But then Bad Education (La Mala Educacion) came along, and I was reminded of all the reasons I can’t stand his goddamn trashy movies.

With all that preamble out of the way, I’d just like to say that I very much enjoyed Volver, finding it one of the most enjoyable flicks, Spanish or otherwise, that I’ve watched in a long while.

Rating:

Little Children

dir: Todd Fields
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Quiet little stories about middle class people in the middle class burbs aren’t exactly rare, so it takes a bit of skill to make such mundane-sounding materials come alive. Little Children does come alive, which surprised even an old curmudgeon like me.

Throw in themes of infidelity, being bored by one’s children, the nastiness of mother’s groups, the hysteria over sex offenders and the joys of vigilantism, and you have a movie that’s about more than what it appears to be about.

Sarah (Kate Winslet) isn’t entirely comfortable with the whole being a mother thing. The daily all-consuming nature of being a mum doesn’t fill up all the empty spaces in her day, and the moment she looks forward to the most is when her husband gets home from work and gives her an hour or two to herself. As the films opens, she, like her daughter Lucy, doesn’t really fit in with the other kids and mothers at a local playground.

The other women, looking and acting like a Desperate Housewives version of Witches of Eastwick, are your average bunch of soccer moms who gear their whole identity around the fact that they are mothers and the self-evident fact (to them) that being a mother means they have the god-given right to be incredibly mean-spirited judgemental bitches.

Rating:

Good Shepherd, The

dir: Robert De Niro
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A man finds one facial expression in the 1930s, and sticks with it for the next thirty turbulent years. He plays some role in the formation of that caring, sharing organisation known as the CIA. And he’s a crap husband and father. They should make fifty films about this guy.

The plot centres around the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, but only uses that as an anchor from which it jumps spastically around in time in order to tell the important story of how one of the crucial players in the formation of the US’s intelligence infrastructure was a pretty soulless chap. Did he have a soul before the CIA, did he lose it after one too many black ops? Are some of the greatest bungles in American history his fault? And where, apart from in the reader’s underpants, are those WMDs after all?

I don’t know. The relevant people are probably dead by now, so it’s a mute moot point. And the story, as written by Eric Roth, is a fictionalised account of the life and exciting times of James Angleton; it’s not a biopic. All the G man, flat top, pasted down haircuts, horn-rimmed glasses and fedoras in the world, or at least in this flick can’t change that fact.

Book of Revelation, The

dir: Ana Kokkinos
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The Book of Revelation is a complex and deeply unpleasant movie, which nonetheless deserves to be watched at least once. Based on a novel of the same name, and having nothing to do with the actual Book of Revelation at the tail end of the Bible, it is an intellectually interesting but flatly unenjoyable experience. I imagine it is like having sex with a kitchen appliance.

I haven’t tried it, so maybe I shouldn’t comment. Our protagonist, Daniel (Tom Long), is an incredibly toned dancer who is kidnapped by three women and sexually abused over the course of 12 days.

The gender difference means the film is approached by the makers and the audience in a very different way. If it had been a flick about three men raping a woman, it is about one thing. Reverse the gender, and you (in the filmmaker's opinion) open an intellectual can full of worms the size of pythons.

Rating:

Suburban Mayhem

dir: Paul Goldman
[img_assist|nid=817|title=This chick is deadly|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=400]
This flick could have been called “When Bogans Attack”, but I guess it wouldn’t be as credible a title. It would also have conjured images of some Steve Irwin nature doco type tracking down and wrestling with bogans in their Western suburbs habitats.

Katrina Skinner (Emily Barclay) is a lethal bogan proving, if nothing else, the old adage that the female of the species can be much deadlier than the male. She is a rampaging sociopath who cares not one whit for any of the people around her, including her baby Bailey. She is an absolutely narcissistic bitch who draws the line at no extremes and cannot be stopped by man or machine, like a classic monster movie fiend.

No one goes the silver bullets / cross and wooden stake route, but maybe they should have thought about it. Or even the cleansing fire, and lots of it.

The film begins with a funeral, that of Katrina’s father John (Robert Morgan), whose death seems untimely. Even at the start, Katrina’s lamentations seem forced and overdone, and the rest of the film catches us up on what really happened to send Daddy to his maker.

Rating:

Notes on a Scandal

dir: Richard Eyre
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What a nasty film. The biggest shame is that it’s taken me this long to get around to watching it, and reviewing it for you, the dear punters. You, who hang on my every word, who flat out refuse to watch a film or hire a DVD unless it has my seal of approval hoof print on it. It is for you that I labour, day in, day out.

And so onwards with the review. Notes on a Scandal was the other high profile British film last year. Notes, The Queen and The Last King of Scotland received a lion’s share of the nominations at the Oscars this year. Dame Judi Dench and Countess Cate Blanchett both received nominations for their work in this dark film, but both got dudded when it came to the Night of Nights. How perfectly feudal to have such royal paraphernalia cluttering up the one paragraph. One king, a queen and a Dame. If someone had given Blanchett a title, I would have had a royal flush.

Rating:

2:37

dir: Murali K. Thalluri
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2:37 was the super-secret opening film at the 2006 Melbourne International Film Festival, launched to a super eager sold out crowd (in more ways than one), who would go on to create unwarranted buzz for a mediocre flick that gives after school specials a bad name. Controversy, which is always supposed to be able to sell tickets, and hysterical press releases from NGOs like the depression experts Beyond Blue, also made this flick seem more important than it really was. And now, what are we left with in the wash up, the aftermath, the hangover on the day after?

As a young director, a very young director at that, Thalluri manages not only to cobble together a Frankenstein-style script from other marginally better movies, but also manages to get crap performances from most of the actors playing ciphers instead of characters throughout the movie. Practically none of the characters, who are given a selection of clichés to work down to, seem to exist as anything apart from mannequins.

Rating:

Queen, The

dir: Stephen Frears
[img_assist|nid=841|title=Ah Betty, you always were a hottie|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=417|height=521]
Of the films from 2006 that I got to enjoy, the least likely ended up being one of the most enjoyable as well. I never would have thought a film about a reigning monarch, an ambitious prime minister and the death of a celebrity princess could have held my interest for more than scant seconds at a time whilst flicking through Women’s Weekly magazine. The Queen not only managed to hold my attention, but kept me riveted and even entertained. Grizzled, cynical old me.

Let me admit from the start that I am profoundly republican in my political sensibilities (note that there’s a little ‘r’ there) when it comes to preferring monarchies or elected heads of state. And my thoughts towards the current reigning Queen of England and her in-bred family are quite succinctly summed up by the Sex Pistols, God Save the Queen, except without the stunning level of insight and social commentary.

And as for the former and dearly departed Princess Diana, the people’s princess, the queen of hearts; I have about as much respect for her as I do for any of the Hilton sisters or any vacuous celebrity who sullies this planet with their sheer pointlessness. I, similar to some of the characters in this flick, cannot for the life of me understand why people around the world went insane with grief over this woman.

Rating:

United 93

dir: Paul Greengrass
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Apparently when trailers for this flick were playing in front of films last year, audience members, at least in the States, would sometimes yell out “Too soon”. Five years after the fact, it’s hard to say when the appropriate amount of time could pass for films about that day not to hurt.

The 9/11 attacks transformed American society, impacted on the world in general and changed the way the rest of us look at movies. Even films as disparate as Spielberg’s War of the Worlds remake and the more recent Inside Man are suffused with imagery or the pathos of those dark days. For those of us who are not American, they can still represent a great source of sadness and anger, and a film dealing with what happened can be just as resonant even if the personal element is lacking.

United 93 looks at the attacks on America by Islamic fundamentalists from the grunt’s eye point of view. Although much of the footage is of the terrorists on one of the flights, and the passengers, much of the screen time is taken up with various people working as flight controllers and at Air Force facilities watching the events unfold on their radar screens or on the news.

Rating:

Babel

dir: Alejandro González Iñárritu
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The biblical tale about the Tower of Babel concerns the myth explaining why so many different languages are spoken around the globe. Back when the story is supposedly set, everyone spoke the same language, which was presumably Aramaic spoken with a Brooklyn accent.

All these people communicated with each other perfectly, and considering how wonderful such perfect communication helped them in their endeavours, they decided to embark upon a great project.

The plan was to build a building tall enough to get to Heaven, in order to hang out with God. So they started building upwards with the intention of getting to the Promised Land without having to go through all the trouble of living right and dying well.

God saw the way in which the project was proceeding, and grew irritated both with their plans to invade his crib, and with the effectiveness with which they worked together in this pre-email, pre-weekly meeting age.

So he confounded them by giving them all different languages, and from thence did the Lord scatter them upon the face of the Earth.

Rating:

Candy

dir: Neil Armfield
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Based on the novel by Luke Davies, Candy is the story of two junkies in love. And that’s about it. As movies about drug addiction go, Candy is a decent enough offering, although it really doesn’t say much that we haven’t heard many times before.

It hits all the right and predictable notes these stories always cover, because many elements of addiction are universal. Movies like this tend to follow the same path: the good times, the bad times, and then hopefully beating the addiction.

It completely lacks the stylistic excess and overwhelming viciousness of a filthy masterpiece like Trainspotting, and gains the greater credibility for it.

So the characters start off crazy in love, with the drugs being the cherry on top. The drugs inevitably take over their lives and relationship, and destroy everything in their path. The third stage, if the characters are lucky, is their chance at redemption.

Dan (Heath Ledger) and Candy (Abbie Cornish) are young Sydney artistic types who dabble with heroin in the beginning, because they don’t have much else in their lives. They don’t seem to have much else to do apart from have sex, use heroin, write poetry and paint pretty paintings. As their supply of money dwindles, and their addiction grows, they face harder and harder choices.

Rating:

Jindabyne

dir: Ray Lawrence
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My biggest fear regarding this flick was that it would scale the heights of cinematic tedium first Sir Edmund Hillary-ied by Ray Lawrence’s previous film Lantana. It’s a serious concern. You have no idea how dull I found Lantana, and how much I dread his fucking films.

But Jindabyne came along, with a suitcase and a song, and I put aside my prejudices, impressed by the moody trailers and good press, and the fact it had Gabriel Byrne and Laura Linney in it.

I’d also heard that it was based on a Raymond Carver short story, about the only Carver short story I’m familiar with: So Much Water, So Close to Home. Anyone who’s seen (and remembers) the Robert Altman film Short Cuts might recall it too. One of the parts of that interlocking sequence of stories concerned a bunch of morons who go on a fishing trip, find a dead girl’s body, and choose not to report it for a while so that they don’t have to spoil their fishing trip.

Rating:

War Within, The

dir: Joseph Castelo
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You have to wonder what the last thing is to go through the mind of a person who has decided not only to kill themselves, but to take a whole heap of other people with them. I’m not talking about the rapidly expanding shockwave, or shrapnel, or their belt buckle as it is propelled upwards and outwards.

I mean the justifications they have been given, or that they give themselves for their actions. A thief justifies their actions based on their selfish need, or the worthiness of the victim for being made so: i.e. the shop or house I’m robbing has insurance, they make shitloads of money anyway, they deserve it etc. A suicide bomber does what, exactly? Justifies their crime by blaming the victims? Blames the regime, the powers that be, the Jews, the universe at large for its unfairness, God, a God, the Gods, Allah, Buddha, the Giant Flying Spaghetti Monster?

There are as many reasons as there are arseholes that perpetrate these atrocities, but the significant difference between a person that kills a bunch of people with a bomb, and a person who blows themselves up as well is that as well as annihilating the targets, they annihilate themselves at the same time.

Rating:

Ax, The (Le Couperet)

dir: Costa Gavras
[img_assist|nid=1219|title=Professional downsizer extraordinaire|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=230]
Veteran Greek agitator/director Costa-Gavras directs a Spanish guy playing a French family guy who’s just trying to get by in the corporate world by killing people all over Europe. How European Union of him.

The downside of the whole EU thing is that with cross border barriers to work having faded, people now compete with a whole new bunch of equally qualified shmos across that once great continent. The other downside being that downsizing naturally follows the increased globalisation of the European labour market. And thus multiple killings ensue.

You may think I’m speaking metaphorically or ironically, but you’d be mistaken. You’d be even more mistaken than I was when I voluntarily chose to watch this flick. The murderous climb up the corporate ladder constructed entirely of corpses is literal in this case.

You see, when our main character, played by Jose Garcia, was made redundant from his job a while ago, he thought nothing of it. A generous severance package and being highly qualified let him think the world was his oyster just aching to be taken. But a year and a half of job hunting has humiliated him to such an extent that he cannot countenance any other course of action apart from murder.

Rating:

Everything is Illuminated

dir: Liev Schreiber
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A film can be crafted with care, and attention. It can be visually arresting, thematically complex, and cover intense, powerful events. It can have decent acting performances, and a literate script with a non-conventional narrative and a story that is anything but formulaic. And it can still do nothing for me.

I’ve heard tell that Jonathan Safran Foer is a good writer, and I have no real reason to dispute that until I read at least a few of his books. There are already plenty of books on my to-be-read list, so it might be a while before I get to him. All I can say is that the screenplay, based on his book of the same name, is interesting.

The film, directed by Liev Schreiber, just doesn’t grab me. I’ve watched it twice now, and it just doesn’t grab me at all. I watch it at a cold remove, distanced from what happens even as I contemplate what is going on.

The protagonist, played by Elijah Wood, is a deliberately ambiguous character. He is a pretty repressed kind of guy, with one suit of clothing, slicked down hair and a pair of glasses whose lenses magnify his eyes to the point of enormity. He may be the protagonist, but he doesn’t do or say too much.

The narrator and the protagonist are not the same person. The narrator, ever-present with his little explanations and elaborations, comes into it down the track.

Rating:

Tsotsi

dir: Gavin Hood
[img_assist|nid=1214|title=Go easy, son.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=329|height=300]
Every year, when Oscar time rolls around, the category at the Academy Awards that I find the most bewildering and amusing is the category for Best Foreign Picture.

It presupposes at least two ideas: that the majority of the films in consideration for the rest of the categories are predominantly going to be American films (which they are), and that in the Foreign category, every other film produced by every other director from every other country apart from the US competes for the Great Golden Dildo.

You are already muttering under your breath “Who the fuck cares, the results at the Oscars matter to me about as much as the results of your last blood test.” And I agree, sure they don’t matter. But it interests me all the same.

The Academy, in the depths of its wisdom, has the sheer fucking gall to assert each year that it has sampled the delights of every other film put out by every country capable of producing them, and can select one to stand above and beyond all the others.

Rating:

Thumbsucker

dir: Mike Mills
[img_assist|nid=1223|title=Guess what he's doing. Go on, guess|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=230]
Another coming of age story. Another coming of age story about an oddball teenager in high school. Another coming of age story about an oddball teenager in high school who tries to find a way to fit in for most of the film, and only realises at the end that the important thing is to be yourself.

Yes, being your fucking self is the solution to all of life’s problems. Because there aren’t enough arseholes being themselves out there fucking shit up for the rest of us. There aren’t enough of us who are ourselves, which is where all our problems come from in the first place.

As if the world hasn’t had enough of these monstrosities lumbered onto it already. In the last few years I can think of a multitude of flicks with a similar premise (though substantially different execution). Enough already. Napoleon Darko Holden Caufield has left the building.

So. Thumbsucker is a minor, pleasant flick about a 17 year old called Justin (Lou Pucci) who still sucks his thumb. He doesn’t know why he does it, his parents are embarrassed by it, and for Justin it is the cherry on top of a seething mess of teenage neurotic confusions. Which is little different from the lives of most teenagers, minus the thumbsucking, I guess.

Rating:

Squid and the Whale, The

dir: Noah Baumbach
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Ah, the agony and the ecstasy of being part of a New York literary, dysfunctional family falling apart in slow motion in the 80s. Well, there’s no ecstasy, and the agony is keen yet comedic. It’s the best way to get revenge on your family that I’ve ever heard of, apart from converting to Islam, possibly.

From what I gather, The Squid and the Whale is almost entirely autobiographical. As such, I don’t know if director and writer Noah Baumbach is welcome at either of his parents’ places for Thanksgiving dinner. His portrayal of his parents, his brother and himself is scathing. Even though the film persistently goes for humourous pathos rather than miserable domestics, it is nonetheless ruthless in its treatment of its characters.

For all that, the characters are pretty well-rounded and believable, and uniformly well acted. I guess Noah knew exactly how he wanted these characters to look and sound, since he grew up with their templates.

Rating:

Junebug

dir: Phil Morrison
[img_assist|nid=912|title=See how the other half live|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=679]
Junebug is a strange slice-of-life about a bunch of people that you otherwise wouldn’t get to see in a movie. Of course they’re actors acting in the roles they’re given, but the roles themselves are of simple people living simple lives.

Into their simple lives, which meander along in a town in North Carolina, comes the number one son of the family George (Alessandro Nivola) and his new wife Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz). Though they’ve been together for six months, Madeleine clearly has no idea about the kind of family that George comes from. She herself is an art dealer with practically no clues about the South. The real reason they’re so way below the Mason-Dixon line is that Madeleine, who deals in ‘outsider’ art, is trying to get the works of a true Southern lunatic called David Wark (Frank Hoyt Taylor).

George is clearly the golden boy of his family, but we never really figure out why. He gets a surprisingly small amount of dialogue in a film that you’d think either himself or Madeleine would be the main characters of. In truth it is enough of an ensemble piece that no one character seems to dominate proceedings.

Rating:

Hidden

dir: Michael Haneke
[img_assist|nid=909|title=Cache sounds so much more continental|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=283|height=400]
Austrian director Michael Haneke is a cruel man. His career has been devoted to torturing audiences with his diabolical flicks. I don’t mean in the same manner that Uwe Boll and Celine Dion torment audiences. As Haneke gets older, his techniques become more refined, his blunt instruments are replaced with scalpels, and the damage goes deeper.

Hidden focuses on a middle-class, middle-aged French couple who start receiving video tapes of themselves documenting their movements at their flat. As well, they receive harmless but unsettling child-like drawings depicting a person bleeding from the mouth, or a chicken getting its head cut off.

The feel of the film is quite unsettling. Haneke uses a static camera for all the shots, not just the surveillance videos, and generally only moves left or right, to make us unsure if we’re really watching the scene, or watching the surveillance depiction of the scene. The flick also has no musical score or soundtrack, which adds to the oppressive atmosphere.

It might sound like a clinical Dogma-like experiment, but it’s not. The performances from all involved, especially Daniel Auteil and Juliette Binoche, are good, as you would expect from two mainstays of modern French cinema.

Rating:

Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, The

dir: Tommy Lee Jones
[img_assist|nid=914|title=You owe it to yourself to watch, um, Trois Enterrements De Melquiades Estrada|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=534]
Films that don’t immediately jump themselves into a recognisable pigeonhole already have a point or two in their favour, for my money. When films follow formula, I tend to start evaluating the film along the lines of its adherence to or variance from the formula. Whatever happens on screen filters through to me with that lens in use.

When I don’t get what the formula is, or the obvious destination point, I’m already more interested than usual. Because such a scenario makes me wonder what is going to happen next, as opposed to generally being able to predict it.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is not a great film. It has some great scenery, gorgeous cinematography, and some interesting characters. Its greatest advantage is that it has a script by Guillermo Arriaga.

Arriaga usually collaborates with director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, so you may be familiar with his work in the form of Amores Perros and 21 Grams, both films I have a lot of time for.

Rating:

Water

dir: Deepa Mehta
[img_assist|nid=931|title=Praying not to be a woman or at least a widow in the next life|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=422|height=437]
A little girl at the age of eight becomes a widow during the latter part of the 1930s. Hindu holy texts dictate widows can never remarry, and must live in seclusion for the rest of their days, to be punished for the sin of having their husband’s die. Or, they can perish upon their husband’s funeral pyre. Or, even better, they can marry their husband’s younger brother. Talk about having an abundance of options in your life.

Chuyia (Sarala) is sent to an ashram filled to the brim with women whose husbands are long dead. An ancient widow, Auntie (Vidula Javalgekar), recalls the sweets served at her wedding when she was seven, with longing, despite the fact (or maybe because of it) that she’s toothless, and easily in her eighties, and has spent most of her life as a widow.

The widows, who wear white saris and have their hair cut very short to mark their status, are ruled by one of the eldest and fattest of their number, Madhumati (Manorama) who eats fried food forbidden to widows whilst the others starve, and doesn’t mind a bit of dope every now and then. The rest of them live miserable lives overflowing with bitterness and regret. The most they hope for is to die and be reincarnated as men.

Rating:

Mysterious Skin

dir: Gregg Araki
[img_assist|nid=924|title=Oh, the confidence of youth|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
My alternative Rating is 0 out of 10 - or no stars for this flick

They say that it takes courage to make certain films. Sometimes there’s more courage in enduring them.

Mysterious Skin is a deeply disturbing film. It is well made and well acted, with a beautiful soundtrack by Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie (of Cocteau Twins fame). None of that makes its subject matter any easier to deal with, or the movie overall any more enjoyable when you walk away from the cinema like someone emerging from a car wreck.

Based on the novel of the same name by Scott Heim the story focuses on the lives of two boys, Neil (Joseph Gordon Levitt) and Brian (Brady Corbet), who are linked by something horrific that happened to them when they were eight years old. What is even more horrific is that one of them cannot remember what happened, and it has left him an empty shell grasping for meaning in the clueless dark. The other remembers it very well. Too well. It has defined his life in ways all-encompassing and wholly destructive.

Brian searches for answers to his blackouts and nosebleeds through finding out about alien abductions and vile experiments onboard UFOs. Neil finds fulfilment through getting paid for hot gay sex and listening to 80s goth music.

Rating:

Munich

dir: Steven Spielberg
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It pains me to say I enjoyed a Steven Spielberg film. It pains me even more to say that he managed to make a really, really good film here in the case of Munich.

I’ve long believed Spielberg was some mutated or evolved form of sea anemone that had somehow climbed out of the ocean, grabbed a movie camera and started making flicks about a species he didn’t really know or understand. I don’t mean sharks or aliens, I mean people. As in Soylent Green is people.

I still don’t think he really knows or likes humans, but in Munich he’s managed to make a compelling, complex and entertaining espionage thriller with a surprising amount of depth. Which involves humans, so maybe something has changed.

Munich deals with the aftermath of the 1972 Munich Olympics where Palestinian terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes and a few German police officers as well. The arseholes, calling themselves Black September, directly involved mostly bit the bullet after brutally dispatching the hostages, but the film deals with the other people who were believed to be involved in planning and organising the massacre.

Rating:

Match Point

dir: Woody Allen
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He tried to stealth this one under our radars, he did. Outwardly, there’s practically no signifiers to indicate that this is a Woody Allen film. It’s a drama, and he hasn’t done a ‘serious’ drama since the days where he was directly ripping off Ingmar Bergman.

In the last few years he’s been content to peddle mostly bland, ineffectual comedies about the same topics he’s always been focussed on. They include the loving of Barely Legal women by men old enough to be their grandfathers, repeated infidelity, being chronically misunderstood, the full spectrum of neurotic behaviours, the unattainability of ‘true’ love that works for any period of time, or the lack of any real lasting happiness.

All hilarious stuff. He puts out a film a year on the cheap, with name actors who work for him practically for free, so it doesn’t really matter that they’re crap. He’s iconic, even if no-one watches his movies any more, and he’s as prolific as Bollywood, with about as much restraint and as little subtlety. Usually.

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Look Both Ways

dir: Sarah Watt
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Since this flick cleaned up the major awards at this year’s AFIs, in a strong year for Australian cinema, I thought I’d give it a look, despite the fact that it’s been out for a donkey’s age. I do so prefer to keep things fresh for you, my loyal and easily bemused readers.

What we have here is not a failure to communicate, but an Australian version of those terrible films coming out of Britain perpetrated by those Working Title people. You know the ones, often directed by Richard Curtis, with random swearing substituting for humour, and more treacle and saccharine than you’ll find at your local confectioners. If you’re not up with Richard Curtis’ ‘oeuvre’, then think Four Weddings and a Funeral, and the diabolical Love Actually.

You’re looking at a large cast of characters, connected tangentially to each other, affected by central plot devices and prone to musical montages. And weepy rainy moments where everyone, generally living in the same town or geographical location, is sad at the same moment, mirrored by the weather.

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Little Fish

dir: Rowan Woods
[img_assist|nid=938|title=Cate getting her Blanchett on|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=399]
Each year they keep talking about the film that’s going to launch the renaissance of Australian cinema, and each year the call goes ignored and unlamented by Australian audiences.

It’s the unpopular kid at school who throws a big birthday on the Saturday afternoon, with the best party pies and those frankfurters on tooth picks, but no-one comes. The kid is left there crying, heart-broken, vowing to join the Liberal party at the soonest opportunity in order to exact revenge upon the world.

This is the latest flick to get touted as the be-all and end-all. And the call is still going to go unheeded. It’s a decent flick all the same.

It’s too downbeat. It’s too angular and deliberately unsatisfying, and incongruous. In fact, you’d wonder who thought this was really going to have any mass appeal. Sure, I saw it in a totally packed cinema, but that was on a Monday afternoon. Monday afternoons at the Nova mean you get to see any flick for 5 bucks. Every old person and their maiden aunt descends upon the Nova from every corner of the inner city, to the almost musical accompaniment of their creaking walking frames.

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Last Days

dir: Gus Van Sant
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Hustle and Flow

dir: Craig Brewer
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There is a whole sub-genre of movies that usually go straight to video. They usually star minor rappers and hip-hop artists who want to play gangsters on film in order to live out their fantasy of being hard men, especially when they grew up far from the mean streets of South Central, Bedford-Stuyvesant, or Caroline Springs.

Seriously, you should check out the shelves of your local video store. There’s reams of these flicks, starring people you’ve never heard of, playing out these sub-rap video clip quality fantasies / tributes to their own egos. But you should definitely not watch them. No sins you’ve committed in your life would justify the punishment. Many of them are written and directed by homeless mental patients. At least it seems that way.

This flick shouldn’t be mistaken for one of those. It does have a lot to do with music, but is about far more than romanticising criminality or making an extended promotional opportunity for shills to shill their shilling-worth wares to get more record sales.

Like the recent and unreviewable Get Rich or Die Tryin’, starring a man named after half a dollar. Half a fucking dollar! Even without inflation that’s practically worthless.

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